For My People
| This is the 607th story of Our Life Logs® |
My name is Benigno Pérez Sahuarare and I was born in 1994. I’m from the Okosatere community in Creel, Mexico.
In my family, it was not important that I studied. My parents told me it was better if I work instead. I understood because I knew that there was no money in the house and that I was one of 15 siblings. I knew it was more important to eat than to read. Still, my parents sent me to school for basic education.
Since preschool in 1999, I walked to school. While my school was the closest one to my house, it took four hours to walk there, and four hours to walk back. From a very young age, my siblings and I had to get up at three in the morning to be on time for breakfast at school. When we started walking it was still dark and we brought a hookah (a perforated boat) with ocote to light us up. In our path were three streams. The water was very cold, and in snowy weather, my feet became very red and then very hot. With no money to buy huaraches, we went barefoot, so the sting was as sharp as you can imagine. Not one of us had a jacket, so, to take the cold out, we carried a ball made of wood to go playing on the road. It was called, “ball race” (a traditional game that we called raràmuri). Once we started to run, the cold flew away. On some occasions, wild animals like coyotes and bears lingered near my pack of siblings. I was very afraid, but my older brothers told me not to make noise and the animals would stay away and wouldn’t be as scary.
We didn’t walk this path every day, just so you know. We made the journey once every eight days and stayed there in a boarding house and worked Monday through Friday. I did this up until I was a teenager in 2008. Nowadays, there is no longer a boarding school, only a dining room and the children who live in my community have to make the daily journey.
When I left elementary school, my parents had no money to support me and continue my studies. They worked in the fields growing corn and beans and herding some animals, making little money. As I’ve said, my family did not care about my future beyond this level of schooling since, in my culture, we only live in the present. The focus is on the fact that we have to work to have daily food, which takes importance over higher math and sciences.
But I didn’t want to stop my studies. I wanted to continue to soak up the knowledge in the way I had been able to do as a child. It seemed like an impossible dream, but then I was awarded a grant from the Dignified Life Foundation. They paid my tuition for the school that was in a community called Sisoguichi, also intercultural. I was very happy because it was an opportunity to continue with my studies.
When I started to study in high school, I began really watching my teachers as they worked with each one of my classmates. I realized that I wanted to be like them. I too wanted to help children and build up my community.
I liked that school very much because there was a lot of discipline, and I learned many things even though I had a lot of deficiencies. Yes, my tuition was covered, but no one helped me with personal expenses. I didn't have enough money to buy soap, shoes, toilet paper, clothes, and school supplies. When it came to school vacations, I had no money for the ticket to go home.
In high school, I traveled by raites (to hitchhike and ask passersby for a lift) to the bus that would take me to the community where the secondary school was located. In total, the journey was about six hours. Once, when I was traveling by raites with two of my classmates, we were hit by one of the trucks. Not fatal, but the whole ordeal was dangerous.
Before I was finished with secondary school, I stopped studying for a year and went to work in Camargo with a pinch of chili because I wanted to help my parents because they no longer had the money for my brothers. The pinch of chili was a contract, they paid us per kilo at 40 cents a day. For this job, I got up at three in the morning to start picking and thus advance the work to fill several chili sausages. I then left in the afternoon around five. I wanted to fill as much sausage as possible because I wanted to raise money to buy things like notebooks, pens, and clothes that I needed to take to school. I also wanted to help my parents with the food that was needed at home. I only earned 300 pesos, and I ate once at noon to save money.
There was no food. During that year, I helped my parents, but I always thought to continue with my studies. At the end of the year, I returned to Creel and enrolled in high school. They continued to help me from the Fundación Vida Digna by paying my tuition. During those three years of high school, I was in the boarding school of the brothers Marists. In the afternoons, we had to go out to study with the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Poor. I liked that time of my studies. I learned many things in addition to academics, I learned carpentry, painting, drawing, and music. I learned not to give up even though I was poor. I learned that my goal of being a teacher was more than enough to keep me focused and positive.
When I finished high school, I decided to become a teacher. I wanted to be an agent of change for my community. I wanted to help new generations learn to train from my culture. Because many parents are illiterate, the fact that their children may learn to read and write and do basic operations would mean that they could help their parents and improve their family’s standing.
I started working at the Benésika Anagupi Intercultural Educational Center and have been for six years now. The commute is four hours, but that is nothing I’m not already accustomed to traveling. In the beginning, it was difficult for me because I was so new and inexperienced, but the head of the school advised me. She explained to me the method of teaching children. She taught me how to plan my classes and how to be in control of my group of students. Once I was able to get a firm grasp on my new position, I was able to realize that the children were very fast learners because I could teach the classes in their native tongue, although we learn to read and write in Spanish as well. I make strategies that call their attention, and I can see their growth.
Learning through music with my class.
Afterward, I entered the National Pedagogical University to study for a degree in Education for the Indigenous Environment. There I have learned how to strengthen the identity of children in the Raramuri culture, and I am already in my fifth semester of the degree. I like it a lot, and I want to finish and be a good teacher because I want to be an agent of change for my community. I want to train new generations so that they may begin to live better. So that they may be more curious and more well-rounded. So that they can give their own families more than what I had. It is my hope that, little by little, the poverty in which we live ends.
In life, we must not give up. The goals we have and the skills we possess must not be overlooked. They must be put at the service of others.
I am grateful for the training that the Clínica Santa Teresita Care Complex has given me through the Dignified Life Foundation. Only with the scholarship have I been able to study and help my community. Thank you very much Vida Digna Foundation and benefactors in the USA.
Benigno with his students, 2021.
This is the story of Benigno Pérez Sahuarare
As a child who grew up in the Okosatere community in Creel, Mexico, Benigno wasn’t expected to go to school past a middle school education. His family was poor, and the closest school was four hours away. Despite the challenges he faced during these early years, Benigno determined to continue studying. After receiving a tuition scholarship from the Fundación Vida Digna (Dignified Life Foundation), he was able to finish his secondary education and go on to work towards earning a degree in Education for the Indigenous Environment. He looks to fortifying his community and empowering his young students.
A special thanks to Father Miguel of the Tarahumara, an indigenous group living in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. We could not have captured this story without your translations and hard work. Thank you!
This story first touched our hearts on December 8, 2021
Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker